Today would have been the 75th birthday of singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. He was born on this day in 1947 and died in 2003 of mesothelioma at the age of 56.
Although Zevon had several hit records and wrote a number of hits recorded by other artists (such as Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me recorded by Linda Ronstadt) his life was haunted by a number of personal demons which led to several years of little to no output. Zevon struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse but had been sober for 17 years by 2002. He also had a lifelong phobia of doctors and had not been seen by a physician for 20 years but in 2002 went to see a doctor for dizziness and a chronic cough which he could not shake. He was diagnosed with advanced mesothelioma which could not be treated and died in 2003, but lived long enough to see the birth of twin grandsons.
I met Warren Zevon once in the early 1990s. I became a Zevon fan in college in the late 1970s and at the time, my father was being seen regularly by a cardiologist in White Plains, NY,by the name of Sanford Zevon. My brother and I constantly asked our Dad to ask Dr. Zevon if he was related to Warren Zevon, but he either dismissed or forgot our plea multiple times. He finally did ask and it turns out that Warren and Sanford Zevon were first cousins and that Warren attended Sanford Zevon’s family Passover Seder regularly while growing up. (It should be noted that Warren Zevon’s mother was not Jewish and he did not identify as a Jew or practice Judaism as an adult.)
His last album, The Wind, was written and recorded when he knew that he was dying of cancer. The song Keep Me In Your Heart is worth your time.
David Letterman was one of Zevon’s closest friends. After Zevon was diagnosed with his final illness, he was the sole guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. It was his last public performance. When Letterman asked him if he had any insights to share from his terminal illness, Zevon said "Enjoy every sandwich. Don't consume life unthinkingly. Savor every mouthful, every moment, no matter how ordinary or common. Every moment is an opportunity. Make it count."
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian